Pioneering Today-Cooking with Cast Iron

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Every pioneer home had a cast iron skillet. No matter how poor or rich, they all cooked their food with a cast iron pot or pan. Every meal, no matter if over an open flame, a burner, or in an oven, could be prepared in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven.

4 tips for cooking with cast iron @MelissaKNorris

And I firmly believe every home should still have cast iron cookware.

Cast iron is superior to other metals because it distributes heat evenly and can go directly from stove top to the oven. Today’s Teflon coated pans, when scratched or exposed to extreme heat, release a chemical proven to cause cancer, immune system problems, and birth defects. DuPont, the manufacturer, states their product is fine when used according to directions, but I’m not willing to take the chance, especially when cast iron is a much more efficient pan.

When seasoned properly, cast iron is non-stick. I cook pancakes and eggs with nary a problem. To ensure your cast iron pan remains non-stick and seasoned, here’s some tips.

1.      Seasoning– After purchasing a new pan or one at a garage sale that needs to be re-seasoned, slather it with a thin layer of shortening and stick it in a preheated 400 to 500 degree oven for a couple of hours. As the oil cooks, it fills the pores of the pan, allowing a nice black charred looking finish. Don’t be alarmed if it smokes, just turn on your fan.

2.      Cooking– When cooking eggs or pancakes, make sure to melt butter or oil first.

3.      Cleaning– Never, I repeat never, use soap to clean your cast iron. Don’t pour cold water into a hot pan…it can crack. Use hot water and wipe out your pan with a non-abrasive cloth. You don’t want to scratch that seasoning off. If you have baked on food, use table salt and scrub off the sticky parts. The heat in the pan will kill any bacteria; soap will destroy your seasoning and cause your pan to rust. Wipe dry and recoat with a thin layer of coconut or olive oil.

4.      Storage– Your cast iron will store best in the open. If you must stack them, always place a towel in between the pans to absorb moisture and prevent scratching the seasoning.

Cast iron will last a lifetime if cared for. Some of my best pans have been ones I’ve picked up at thrift stores or garage sales. A little bit of salt scrubbing and re-seasoning and they’re better than the new ones.

But if you can’t find any this skillet from our affiliate partner Amazon Lodge 8 inch Cast Iron Skillet is a great place to start. Lodge brand is made in the United States, not china, and is a quality product. I have several Lodge brand cast iron skillets and love it.

Hooked on cast iron? Check out this posts. Dutch Oven Campfire Cooking Tutorial




Here’s all of my survival and prepper articles. 

Want more info on implementing the pioneer lifestyle into your modern one? Read the first chapter of Pioneering Today for FREE here.

Do you cook with cast iron? Are any of your pans passed down from family members?

The other cookware you’ll find in my kitchen is stoneware for baking my fresh bread in less than 5 minutes a day.

For more great pioneering and simple living posts, check out the Homestead Barn Hop.

Copywrite @2012 by Melissa K. Norris

Originally published in The Concrete Herald February 2012 issue

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  1. says

    I had one a long time ago, but it was so heavy and I apparently didn’t know how to season it properly because food stuck all the time. When we moved and I knew I was going to have a glass cooktop verses burners, I sold it. I wish, now, that I hadn’t. My hope is to one day replace the cooktop with gas and then I will purchase another.

    • says

      Ginger, definitely keep your eye out for another pan. Once seasoned, you’ll find them so easy to cook in. Plus, they distribute heat evenly, so your food doesn’t have hot spots. And, I like being able to brown my meat on the stove top, then put cornbread or biscuits on top for a casserole, and pop the whole pan in the oven without dirtying another dish.

  2. Shanna O'Connor says

    That’s what I use now, too. I love them! I feel like food tastes better when cooked this way. I have a dutch oven that belonged to my husbands aunt, and I consider it extra special to have.

    • says

      Shanna, yes, things passed down from family members are extra special. :) Dutch oven’s are great. We have several cast iron dutch oven’s that are called spider’s, they have three legs so you can stand them over coals. Whenever we go camping, or the power is out, we cook all our meals in them. In fact, I swear my rolls taste better and turn out fluffier.

  3. Cecily Moore says

    all I use , I have several diffrent sizes all of which have been given to me by my mom or Danny’s mom , I love them.

  4. Sara says

    Hi Melissa – I applaud the idea of creating a safer home, and because there’s so much misinformation out there about the Teflon® brand, I’m not surprised that you are concerned. I’m a representative of DuPont though, and hope you’ll let me share some information with you and your readers so that everyone can make truly informed decisions.

    Regulatory agencies, consumer groups and health associations all have taken a close look at the Teflon® brand. This article highlights what they found — the bottom line is that you can use Teflon® non-stick without worry.

    I’d truly be glad to share additional information about it if you are interested, and appreciate your consideration of this comment. Cheers, Sara.

    • says

      Thanks for the info, Sara, but I still prefer my cast iron. It cooks more evenly and I can go from oven to stovetop or vice versa. Plus, I can cook with it on an open flame when we’re outside or camping. I have more faith in my grandmother’s cookware, but appreciate your time.

  5. Homer Oldemeyer says

    Melissa, Did I over due the slather? After cooking the skillet and allowing a cool-down the shiny film of lard seemed too thick. Not so? I could press my thumb on it and leave a thumb print. I tried to remove some with moist salt but made a mess. I plan to use soap to remove the mess and start over. How about less lard? Thanks Homer

    • says

      That doesn’t seem quite right, Homer. I’d put it back in the oven and leave it for longer, the extra lard should cook off. Or you can give it a good soaping and then redo with less shortening the next seasoning. A thin layer of shortening is what I’ve always done. You could cook something with tomatoes in it and that will help eat off some of the lard too. Hate to see your hard work go to waste, but no worries, the cast iron is tough and will be none the worse for wear.

  6. Lana says

    I love my cast iron! My skillet never gets put away because I use it everyday, usually several times. It’s an old one I got from my mom who probably got it second (or third, fourth, etc!) hand also, and I’ve never had to reseason it. I wash it maybe once a week, so I don’t mind that it can’t go in the dishwasher. I have the cutest little cast iron deep fryer also from my grandma, and a big iron dutch oven that we bake our bread in.

    • says

      Lana, woohoo! I’m the same way. I love my cast iron spider dutch oven. And because my hubby is never on here to spoil it, I got him a cast iron dutch oven for Christmas. The spider’s we use for cooking outdoors with coals. This one will be for inside oven use. Your grandmother sounds like a wise woman! I haven’t seen a cast iron deep fryer.

  7. Melissa Douglas-Clemens says

    I have several cast iron skillets from my gramma’s on both sides and yard sales. Recently while out of town apperently my husband didn’t think I owned anything else and scortched and burnt eggs in all 5 of the pans. I have soaked them and soaked them and can’t get it all out…..any suggestions I would really love to have my pans back…lol
    PS…any info on removing burnt gravy from the bottom of a stainless stell pan?…same weekend I was gone might I…at least he tried huh! Next time I will leave him individual dishes in the fridge he can microwave.

    • says

      Oh, no! First, have you tried a salt scrub? Don’t be afraid to use a lot of salt and due to the severity, you might have to use a spatula with the salt to scrape off the burnt egg. If that doesn’t cut it, the next thing you can do is put your pan in your oven on really high heat to burn it off. Be sure to use your vent and you’ll need to re-season it. Or if you have an outdoor fire pit, you can set it down in the hot coals to burn off the burnt food.
      For the burnt on gravy, try taking baking soda (do not mix w/ water) and rub it dry on the bottom. It should absorb the grease and not scratch up your pan. I use baking soda to clean my oven, the trick is not to add any water.

  8. Heather D. says

    I have a question about residual flavors. My husband has a small steak for breakfast just about every day. He likes it loaded with garlic powder and Johnny’s seasoning. I’ve noticed that pan keeps that flavor and I didn’t enjoy it very much on my grilled cheese sandwich the other day. Is there a way to remove this or should I dedicate that pan to highly seasoned foods?

    • says

      Heather, are you taking really hot water and rinsing out the pan? I run my tap water the hottest I can get it and while the pan is still hot, pour enough in it and swirl it around. It’s hot enough that the water actually boils (just enough to cover the bottom of the skillet) and I can see stuff lift up off the bottom. Then I wipe it down with a towel and apply a thin layer of lard or Crisco. Otherwise you can have His and Her pans. :)

  9. Laura says

    This is probably a dumb question, but I need to ask before I mess up my stove. Can cast iron pans be used on a glass-top electric stove? Thanks.

    • says

      Hmm. I don’t have a glass-top so I’m not sure. I’d make sure you set it down carefully as they are heavy. It won’t hurt the pan, but not sure about the top… Do you have your owner’s manual?

  10. Laura says

    This is probably a dumb question, but I need to ask before I mess up my stove. Can cast iron pans be used on a glass-top electric stove? Thanks.

  11. Laura says

    This is probably a dumb question, but I need to ask before I mess up my stove. Can cast iron pans be used on a glass-top electric stove? Thanks.

  12. Sandie says

    Do you know why the new cast irons are textured? I was gifted a set os skillets from my mom when I got married — they are as smooth as glass on the inside. However, I just bought a new cast iron dutch oven, and it’s textured/bumpy. Do you know why there is a difference? The textured is the only kind I could find.

    • says

      It’s textured and bumpy because it’s not been seasoned is my guess. Some of my newer cast iron takes awhile to get that totally smooth surface. I think it’s the years of seasoning that get us the smoothness.

      • says

        My Lodge pans are bumpy and textured on the inside. Lodge sold now is pre seasoned. The seasoning they put on it stinks and even with me seasoning the pan several times, I am still having issues with somethings sticking. I could never cook eggs in mine. I would love a smooth bottom one like the one my sister got from her grandmother in law.


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